A Tarot Reader Guest Blogs at Best American Poetry


I am the guest blogger this week over at Best American Poetry and am feeling a bit like a fraud since I’m not a poet, at least not since the angry-histrionic adolescent years of poems about boys who won’t give me the time of day, printed in font size 14 in comic sans or some other curly girly font and center-aligned down the page. Hm, actually in college there was a brief period of doing slam poetry on themes of an Asian Diaspora ravaged by post-colonial ambivalence and cultural imperialism but that period is really best left forgotten too. I am, however, an avid consumer of poetry and have bookshelves at home filled with poetry collections and chapbooks, half of poets you’ve all heard of and half of poets you’ve probably never heard of.

I’m trying to think of when I first learned about the Best American Poetry series, and it turns out I can’t seem to remember a time when I was aware of literature and not aware of BAP. I read it in high school, college, and even recall sending a letter to David Lehman directly one time about a decade ago telling him I felt the BAP series didn’t include a fair representation of Asian American poets. The current series has been much better, I think, about diverse representation.

This week BAP is letting a tarot reader (me) run loose on their blog (http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/) and here’s what’s going to happen:

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The First Operation: Adapting a Traditional Method in the “Opening of the Key” to Contemporary Tarot Applications

The First Operation is the first step to an extensive divination method called the “Opening of the Key,” a method associated with the Golden Dawn approach to tarot reading. Paul Foster Case’s book, Oracle of the Tarot (1933) provides a great instructional on the First Operation. A PDF of the book can be downloaded HEREFor a recent publication on “Opening of the Key,” read “The Golden Dawn Opening of the Key Method” by Marcus Katz of Tarot Professionals, linked HERE.

Now I’ve extracted the First Operation method from the Opening of the Key to use contemporaneously with modern approaches to tarot reading.

Selecting the Signifier

There are many ways of selecting a signifier card, also known as the significator. A classic “old school” Golden Dawn approach is to use The Magician for a male and The High Priestess for a female. However, I was taught to use court cards. The following is my court card approach to selecting the signifier:

Astrol. Signs, Sun Sign Dates


Court Card Signifier
Aries, MAR 21 – APR 19


PAGE for young female
Leo, JUL 23 – AUG 22 KNIGHT for young male
Sagittarius, NOV 22 – DEC 21 QUEEN for adult female
KING for adult male
Cancer, JUN 21 – JUL 22


PAGE for young female
Scorpio, OCT 23 – NOV 21 KNIGHT for young male
Pisces, FEB 19 – MAR 20 QUEEN for adult female
KING for adult male
Libra, SEPT 23 – OCT 22


PAGE for young female
Aquarius, JAN 20 – FEB 18 KNIGHT for young male
Gemini, MAY 21 – JUN 20 QUEEN for adult female
KING for adult male
Capricorn, DEC 22 – JAN 19


PAGE for young female
Taurus, APR 20 – MAY 20 KNIGHT for young male
Virgo, AUG 23 – SEPT 22 QUEEN for adult female
KING for adult male

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The Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson: A Powerful Divination Deck and a Suggested Triquetra Spread



The Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson is a masterpiece. The tone of the deck and Dowson’s artwork invokes the full spectrum of powers within the tarot practitioner for spiritual divinatory work. As a Golden Dawn study deck, the card images are fundamentally focused on alchemical and astrological references such as the decans in the Minor Arcana, with the deck outfitted for theurgy. It can be integrated into personal rituals, meditations, and ceremonies and in fact is probably far better suited for such work than, say, the Marseille, Rider-Waite-Smith, or even the Thoth decks.

bellwen-Hermetic-KnightGodfrey Dowson draws heavily from elemental dignities and affinities, Western astrology as interpreted by the Golden Dawn, and the Qabalah. Corresponding alchemical symbols for the four elements and astrological symbols are embedded into each card to denote the attributions. In the Major Arcana, the Key’s corresponding Hebrew letter appears on the top left corner. In the court cards, the alchemical symbol corresponding with the classical element that the card itself represents appears on the top left and the symbol for the element corresponding with the suit appears on the top right. The Knight of Swords, for example, represents Fire (for the Knight) on Air (for the suit of Swords). For practitioners who adopt interpretive methods reliant on elemental dignities and affinities, that is a godsend. The backs of the cards are illustrated with the Hermetic Rose and hexagrams. As they are non-reversible, it may not be an ideal deck for reading with reversals. That being said, the little white booklet that accompanies the Hermetic Tarot provides the meanings of the cards in the “ill-dignified” position, as reversals are called in the booklet, which suggests that the deck is nevertheless intended for reading with reversals.

The anatomy of the Hermetic Tarot is the same as the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) (e.g., VIII is Strength and XI is Justice or their equivalents) and there is substantial crossover of subscribed card meanings to render the Hermetic Tarot user-friendly for anyone familiar with the RWS. At the end of this deck review are correspondence tables that compare the RWS with the Hermetic Tarot. Note the card titles assigned to each card in the Hermetic deck. The essences of the cards as denoted by the titles are almost transferrable onto the RWS.

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